Being a Bostonian means getting used to harsh winters. There are months spent indoors hiding from unyielding snowfalls and freezing temperatures. So when summer comes around, and the population of the city is released from its forced hibernation, folks clamor to make the most out of their limited outdoor time. During the week, the streets are filled with people soaking in the sunshine, and on the weekend everyone floods out to the city’s nearby wilderness areas to get as much time in nature as possible.
Near Boston, there’s no better place to do this than The Berkshires. Only a few hours drive outside of the city, the region has the unique ability to be both a sanctuary and an epicenter of adventure. During my college days, I often strapped a mountain bike to the roof of my car and headed into the mountains of western Massachusetts to hit the trails. There is no freer feeling for an adrenaline junkie like me than biking in the Berkshires. And since those early days of me escaping the academic hustle to seek some thrills, the biking courses have only gotten better.
There’s just so much to love in this escape — restaurants that serve farm-to-table dishes, parks filled with scenic trails, a thriving art scene… and let’s be honest, the air just tastes better out in the woods. Point being, once you’re done kicking up dirt and your legs are sore, there are plenty of ways to relax until you’re ready to ride again. If you’re planning your trip to the Berkshires (and if you aren’t, why not?) this is your guide to a mountain biking adventure in the charming New England region that draws visitors from all over the world.
How to get there:
There are flight and bus options to get to the Berkshires, but if you truly want to appreciate the idyllic surroundings, opt for taking a drive. There are great car sharing services that have fleets out of Boston, and a few even headquartered there. Going this route offers you the luxury of running on your own schedule and blasting your favorite tunes while looking out at the northern hardwoods.
Your base for after biking recovery:
Tourists hotel is stationed in the resurgent city of North Adams, just a quick drive along the historic Mohonk Trail away from the mountain biking facility. Set in a refurbished farmhouse on the banks of the Hoosic River, it’s inspired by the classic American roadside motor lodge. Now designed for the 21st-century traveler, the 48-room property was made to seamlessly intertwine design and nature.
The restaurant at Tourists — named The Airport Rooms in honor of the previous establishment — boasts a tasty seasonal menu by Greg Thomas. Even better is the ambiance influenced by the objects that they preserved from the original building, like vintage record players and an antique grand piano. It’s the perfect place to relax after a long day on the trails.
To get your ride:
There is biking of all kinds to be done in The Berkshires. In fact, road biking is an amazing way to see the area. But no matter what kind of biking you plan on doing, you’re going to need a ride. I highly suggest paying a visit to Village Bikes, just a 15-minute drive from the hotel, to pick out your bike for the weekend. They stock Bianchi hybrid bikes for both adults and kids.
Alternately, if you’re feeling so inclined they offer tandem bikes. Every rental comes with a bike lock and helmets. Safety first.
For a caffeine charge:
If you’re looking for something a little more artisanal than Cumberland Farms or Dunkin’ Donuts (no judgment) check out Tunnel City Coffee. The caffeine high comes in clutch during the downhills too. The specialty coffee company has been operating out of the northern Berkshires since 1992. The name comes from the landmark Hoosac Tunnel, a piece of infrastructure which set the stage for businesses to set up shop. They roast all of their coffee nearby in the historic Norad Mill of North Adams.
For the best shred:
Does cruising downhill over gnarled roots and dirt while green boughs whip over your helmet sound like heaven? It does to us. So, make your way to the outdoors playground that is Thunder Mountain Bike Park. The last time I went there I hadn’t been in the saddle for a while and they helped me get dialed in proper.
This is a wonderland of paths with all kinds of difficulty levels, meaning fun for the whole family. They’ve even been developing a couple of special challenges for the more experienced riders with experts from Gravity Logic, considered to be the leader in mountain bike track design. Time to flow.
For a carb-load:
Nestled amongst the Berkshire and Taconic Hills in the beautiful Hancock Valley, Ioka Valley Farm is a charming rustic farm that definitely needs to be on your list. Grab one of their delightful pancake meals (nothing fancy — you’re in the country), accompanied by their own homemade maple syrup. You earned the calorie splurge on the trails. Once you’re done eating your fill go out to mingle with their large menagerie of animals — goats, ducks, chickens, rabbits, sheep, pigs, alpacas, and of course, cows.
For road inspiration:
Give the legs a break and learn about how those woods you just tracked through inspired a few of our greatest minds at Arrowhead & Hawthorne House. Back in the 1800s when Herman Melville was penning Moby Dick, there was another author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, just down the road in the Berkshires writing The House of Seven Gables. Their first meeting came when they both ran for cover during a thunderstorm while out on separate hikes (quite the meet-cute). Their friendship became so strong that Melville dedicated Moby Dick to Hawthorne when it was published.
You can visit these places to pay tribute to these literary icons, and maybe even get inspired yourself.
For more calories:
There are a number of shiny new eateries that have popped up in The Berkshires recently with the growing demand and interest for the area’s farm-to-table cuisine. The Mill on the Floss was there before all of them, serving delicious locally sourced dishes for over four decades. Sit down in the lovely restored farmhouse while Chef Suzanne Champagne Ivy, whose family has owned the restaurant since the opening, prepares hearty dishes in their open kitchen.
For the nights:
You aren’t going to be biking at night (please don’t bike at night) so instead go check out the Tanglewood Music Center. Ever since the Boston Symphony started hosting open-air concerts in the Berkshires back in the 1930s and 1940s, the area has become a cultural mecca. The Tanglewood Music Center was built to support those original shows. These days, their stage is home to the world’s most in-demand acts, with upcoming performances by Josh Groban, home town hero James Taylor, and of course the Boston Symphony.
Back at the hotel set the Spotify to “James Taylor” radio and prepare for some sweet dreams.